University of Waterloo
Engineering 5 (E5), 6th Floor
Phone: 519-888-4567 ext.32600
Systems Design Engineering graduates pursue a variety of different career paths. Many move into business roles, while others pursue professional designations in law or medicine, but an ever growing number choose to start their own businesses or work in technology startups.
In the past 34 years, systems design graduates turned entrepreneurs have enjoyed great success. Here are a few stories of their startup success, several of which began as ideas and projects formed during their undergraduate years on campus:
Eric Migicovsky, Class of 2009
Founder of smart-watch firms Allerta Inc, Pebble Technology
Eric along with classmate Rahul Bhagat, has built two companies focused on transforming how the wristwatch is used. Recently the Pebble Watch raised more than 10 million dollars. The skills and technology being used can be traced back to co-op work terms and 4th year design project. Eric describes how SYDE helped his growing entrepreneurial career: “100% help. Best undergrad engineering program for people who like to work on projects (ie design and build things). A++ would attend again. Also, the coop program at UWaterloo really helps you see what working at 'real' companies is like. My one regret is not doing more coop terms at startups.”
Jason Tham, Kevin Wong, Sean Kirby, Jason Yuen
Founders of Nulogy Corporation
Nulogy was started by a group of University of Waterloo engineering graduates with experience in several successful technology companies, as well as a professor with extensive research and consulting experience.
Evolving from what Red Herring Magazine called “one of the most exciting startups of the year in North America” in 2009, Nulogy is going through a period of rapid expansion and are excited to be building a great business by helping other businesses be successful!
Kurtis McBride, Class of 2004
Kurtis co-founded Miovision Technologies in 2005, while completing his graduate studies in the Vision and Image Processing (VIP) research lab in Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo. His interest in video analytics in traffic stemmed from his fourth year workshop project that involved the automated tracking of vehicles through intersections using digital video. This project grew into his MASc research and, through Kurtis' entrepreneurial drive, he commercialized this technology which led to the founding of Miovision. Miovision was the first company to enter and to graduate from the Accelerator Centre, now a well-recognized startup incubator on the north campus of the University of Waterloo.
As the first and only CEO, Kurtis continues to the visionary leader of Miovision, creating a strong corporate culture with low employee turnover. The company continues to transform into a successful business in the field of intelligent traffic data management solutions with a growing number of employees, now over 100 people, as well as international clients and an office in Cologne, Germany.
Kurtis has been awarded the 2011 Faculty of Engineering (University of Waterloo) Young Alumni Award, the 2012 Peter Brojde Award for Canada's Next Generation of Executive Leadership, and the 2013 Young Entrepreneur Award from the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce.
David Demner, Class of 2001
Founder of computer consulting firm
During his first co-op term, David identified the need for the type of program he was developing, which could be applied to a lot of companies. Also the typical cost for the type of system he wrote is double what he charges. He started as a sole proprietorship in 1996, but only since graduation has he had the time to develop his business. David is looking forward to the upcoming incorporation of his business.
John Baker, Class of 2000
Founder and CEO, Desire2Learn
John founded Desire2Learn in 1999, at the age of twenty-two, while attending the University of Waterloo as a Systems Design Engineering student.
A strong believer in community involvement, John devotes both his personal and business efforts to supporting young entrepreneurs who are developing and applying technology to improve society worldwide. He was a Waterloo Region Top 40 Under 40 award recipient in 2009, and was also inducted into the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame as an Intrepid Entrepreneur that same year. A four-time recipient of the Deloitte Technology Fast50 award in consecutive years (2006-2009), he was named the Waterloo Region’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 and received the University of Waterloo Young Alumni Achievement Medal in 2010.
In February 2013, John was appointed to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). As a prominent voice for both education and technology, he serves as Chairman of the Board at Communitech and also sits on the boards for both the National Ballet School (in Canada) and Canada’s Technology Triangle (CTT). Additionally, he is an affinity board member for Memorial University and a University of Waterloo Alumni Council member.
John graduated from the University of Waterloo with an Honours B.A.Sc. in Systems Design Engineering, with First Class Honours and an option in Management Sciences.
Marcus Sternberg, Class of 1995
Budding architectural entrepreneur
After completing his MBA and gaining enough practical experience, Marcus will be opening up his own architecture component controls company for industry, commercial and residential markets. His company hopes to offer solutions and products much less expensive, proprietary, and confusing for customers. He expects to offer home automation solutions for a fully equipped system at a significantly lower price than the "competition's" system.
Marcus also bought a 100 acre farm in British Columbia as an investment and a learning endeavour. The endeavour has provided him with experience in financial etiquette.
Steve Matusch, Class of 1991
Founder of Ionic Engineering Limited Automated Industrial Systems, Sudbury, ON
Steve grew up in an entrepreneurial environment where his father's construction business was a major part of the conversation at the dinner table. From his family's own experiences, he learned about contracts, political manoeuvring, and many practical obstacles that come with the day-to-day life of running your own business. Watching his own family's successes, obtained through hard work and intelligent thinking, Steve came to believe that "...to build an enterprise from scratch - to bring new employment to a community and hopefully to build some degree of financial independence," was one of the greatest endeavours an individual could pursue. By the time Steve graduated from the Systems Design Engineering program at UW, he had specialized in areas to prepare him for future entrepreneurial endeavours. He has since founded Ionic Engineering Limited Automated Industrial Systems, an engineering company specializing in the design and manufacture of automated industrial machinery and robotics.
William M. Tatham, Class of 1983
Founded what was formerly known as Janna Systems.
Founder of XJ Partners Inc., Toronto, ON
William M. Tatham is the Chief Executive Officer of NexJ Systems Inc., a premier provider of enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Prior to establishing NexJ Systems in 2003, Mr. Tatham was the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Janna Systems, which sold to its largest competitor, Siebel Systems, in 2000 in a record value transaction for a Canadian software company.
He is a former member of the Board of Governors at the University of Waterloo and was awarded the Faculty of Engineering Alumni Achievement Medal for Professional Achievement. He was a 2005-2006 inductee into the National Commission for Co-operative Education Co-op Hall of Fame. The William M. Tatham Centre for Co-operative Education & Career Services at UW is named in recognition of his support.
Mr. Tatham is Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health at York University, and formerly served on the Entrepreneurial Advisory Board of the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
Jim Estill, Class of 1980
Founder of EMJ Data Systems Ltd, Guelph, ON
Jim Estill is the founder and President of EMJ Data Systems Ltd. EMJ is a wholesaler of microcomputers, peripherals and software. He started the company during his 4th year in Systems Design Engineering at UW. EMJ has grown since then to be a publicly-listed TSE company with sales over $200,000,000. In recognition for his successes and contributions to the engineering profession, Jim Estill was a recipient of the 1999 Engineering Alumni Award. Jim enjoys speaking to students about his experience at UW and his entrepreneurial successes upon graduation from the Systems Design Engineering program.
Ian Forbes, Class of 1974
Vice President Marketing & International Sales, Fred Systems Ltd., Waterloo, ON
In the 1980's, Ian was working in video producing and equipment sales. This led to the formation of Video Works Inc with an old friend. He worked for two years in the new VHS business until Video Works grew to several divisions with 40 employees. He continued on as a video producer and director. He formed a partnership in 1993 with Fred Systems Ltd., a world leader in the development and installation of Digital Signage Networks. Fred Systems provides advertising with hi-tech video displays in public locations. He is currently Vice President Marketing & International Sales with Fred Systems.